Afghanistan crashed to a heartbreaking one-wicket defeat against Pakistan at Sharjah in a Super 4 match of the Asia Cup on Wednesday. The result not only knocked the Afghans out of contention but also ended India’s slim chances of making the final.
India had needed Afghanistan to beat Pakistan to stay alive in the tournament and Babar Azam’s team almost obliged. Chasing Afghanistan’s 129-run total, Pakistan were reduced to 118/9 after 18.5 overs when Asif Ali, the last recognised batter, was dismissed.
But Naseem Khan (14 runs off 4 balls) came to Pakistan’s rescue by smacking the first two balls of the last over from Fazalhaq Farooqi for sixes. The first ball was a full toss and the youngster calmly dispatched it for a six before sparking off wild celebrations in the Pakistan camp with his second six of the over off the very next ball.
The Afghans, as expected, put up a spirited performance with the ball. The Pakistan batters found run-scoring difficult against the spinners and after 10 overs, they were just 52/3. A steady stream of wickets kept the pressure on Pakistan despite a quickfire 36 off 26 balls by Shadab Khan, who was sent up the order.
In the end, though, Pakistan had just that little more in the tank. Fareed Ahmad (3/31) and Rashid Khan (2/25) were brilliant but it just wasn’t enough on the day.
Earlier, a poor batting effort by Afghanistan saw them put just 129 runs on the board. They got off to a good start, scoring 36 runs off the first 3.4 overs of the innings but the wicket of Rahmanullah Gurbaz led to a slowdown that his team never recovered from.
Ibrahim Zadran top-scored for the Afghans with 35 off 37 balls. It wasn’t a quick knock but it was a vital one nonetheless and helped the team get closer to the 130-run mark.
On the bowling front, Haris Rauf was the top wicket-taker with 2/26 while Naseem chipped in with a fine 1/19.
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